-ette

a noun suffix occurring originally in loanwords from French, where it has been used in a variety of diminutive and hypocoristic formations (brunette; cigarette; coquette; etiquette; rosette); as an English suffix, -ette forms diminutives (kitchenette; novelette; sermonette), distinctively feminine nouns (majorette; usherette), and names of imitation products (leatherette). Cf. -et.
[ < F, fem. of -et -ET]
Usage. English nouns in which the suffix -ETTE designates a feminine role or identity have been perceived by many people as implying inferiority or insignificance: bachelorette; drum majorette; farmerette; suffragette; usherette. Of these terms, only drum majorette - or sometimes just majorette - is still widely used, usually applied to one of a group of young women who perform baton twirling with a marching band. A woman or man who actually leads a band is a drum major. Baton twirler is often used instead of (drum) majorette. Farmer, suffragist, and usher are applied to both men and women, thus avoiding any trivializing effect of the -ETTE ending. See also -enne, -ess, -trix.

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Universalium. 2010.

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